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Never Go Broke: Book reveals how to turn junk into profit

Our homes are crammed full of untapped treasure. Mountains of multimedia gathering dust, unloved designer clothes and furniture that has seen better days.

Many of us are guilty of over-consuming and simply throw out unwanted ‘junk’ in the bin, a skip or at the tip, wasting hundreds – if not thousands – of pounds each year in the process. It’s bad for your wallet and the environment.

So, it’s time to fight back, sell it and free up that cash.

In our new book Never Go Broke: How To Make Money Out Of Just About Anything, co-author Jesse McClure and I aim to enrich your lives by helping you create a pot of money from selling old and unwanted items lying around your home. 

Hidden treasures: Britain’s homes are crammed full of unused goods, old clothes and toys and multimedia which can be easily sold online 

We then teach you tricks of the ‘resale’ trade that will help you make this cash go even further.

Jesse, who made his name in TV hit Storage Hunters, has been a professional in the resale game since he was a teenager and has plenty of secrets of success to share. 

And I have been a financial journalist for more than a decade. Today, in Money Mail, we reveal our best tips to help you get started…

Build a cash pot for starters

First, you need to make some money and move it into a special account away from your everyday spending.

The simplest place to start is by selling bits and bobs lying around the house.

Depending on your home, you could easily earn £500 within a month.

Start by taking some Post-it notes and putting a rough price on six to 12 items based on what you think they are worth. Then research how much they could sell for online, and update your Post-it notes accordingly.

If you are new to the internet, eBay is your best starting point. This is a global online marketplace. Listing items is free, but eBay will take a 10 per cent cut of the final selling price and you’ll need to factor in postage and packaging costs.

Facebook Marketplace is similar, but it’s free to feature on the social media website and it tends to be more localised. Or you could try the smartphone app Shpock, which has no fees and is a bit like a car boot sale on your mobile.

When looking to offload books, DVDs and old gadgets, websites such as Music Magpie, We Buy Books and Ziffit are useful

When looking to offload books, DVDs and old gadgets, websites such as Music Magpie, We Buy Books and Ziffit are useful

When sorting through your belongings, it is worth developing a tier system. Top-tier items should go to auction houses, antiques dealers or specialists.

To find a specialist, you can just search on Google, or try global auction websites such as Invaluable and The Saleroom. 

Or to get an idea of the value of any antiques and collectibles, lists millions of sold prices — and there is a seven-day free trial.

Second-tier items can be listed on websites that specialise in selling second-hand goods such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Shpock.

And tier three are your car boot sale items. Lastly, you have a bottom tier — items that have a recycling value, such as scrap metal.

This system can be applied to other genres, such as clothes.

Top-tier designer items should be sold on a specialist website such as Depop. This is an online marketplace with a focus on clothes where buyers look to sniff out designer bargains. There is a 10 per cent fee for each item sold.

Middle-tier High Street labels could do well at car boots or on Facebook Marketplace. 

Bottom tier can be sold for scrap at specialists such as Cash For Clothes. The firm has sites dotted across Britain and will pay up to 50p per kilo, and prevent clothes heading to landfill.

Never Go Broke: podcast special 

The new book – Never Go Broke: How To Make Money Out Of Just About Anything, has been written by This is Money personal finance editor Lee Boyce and Storage Hunters TV star Jesse McClure

In this special, Lee is joined from Los Angeles by Jesse, to explain all to Georgie Frost and Simon Lambert on the This is Money podcast.

Jesse and Lee discuss how they met, how the book was created, and their three step approach to putting more money in your pocket with a little bit of entrepreneurial endeavour and reselling.

Press play above or listen (and please subscribe if you like the podcast) at Apple Podcasts, Acast, Spotify and Audioboom or visit our This is Money Podcast page  

Prices at the touch of a button

When looking to offload books, DVDs and old gadgets, websites such as Music Magpie, We Buy Books and Ziffit are a useful weapon in your armoury.

The easiest way to check how much your items may be worth is to download the website’s barcode app onto your smartphone or tablet.Then use the camera on your device to scan the barcode on the item.

You will receive an instant price and if you agree to sell, you will be emailed a free postage label to print. You then just package up and post off your unwanted items free of charge.

Each website – or app – will offer different prices, so it is vital you check more than one before committing to a sale. 

When we scanned a range of 14 multimedia items, including old mobile phones and DVDs, we discovered we could get a much better deal if we mixed and matched rather than selling everything to the same website.

If we had chosen the highest bidder for each item we would have made roughly £11. But if we had taken the lowest prices, we would have pocketed just £4. 

If you scale that up to say 140 items, you would be talking £110 or £40 for the same items — a £70 difference.

Put a shine on your profits

When it comes to old furniture, learn how to upcycle. YouTube tutorials are a brilliant place to start and big money can be made.

Many households throw unwanted furniture out on the driveway or list it on Freecycle, a website where people post items they’re willing to give away — take advantage, and even if you’ve never done it before, pick some up and make it your guinea-pig project.

In tune: Musical instruments were the biggest selling item second-hand on eBay in the run-up to Christmas

In tune: Musical instruments were the biggest selling item second-hand on eBay in the run-up to Christmas

Much of the time, the item may just require a lick of paint. A good trick is to use an inexpensive bottle of orange oil furniture polish to make it shine.

Then aim to sell it through an antiques specialist, with Facebook Marketplace as a back up.

Baby items are another top revenue stream. Many people are willing to buy second-hand clothes, cribs and nursery furniture in good condition at local baby boot events, or on Facebook.

Musical instruments were the biggest selling second-hand item on eBay in the run-up to Christmas. If you or a family member no longer want their cello, violin or glockenspiel, these will sell quickly on the marketplace.

Five of Jesse’s favourite resale wins

– Rare Disney goods from a garage sale purchased for $10,000, sold on for around $50,000 – this includes pieces from the 1920s.

– A dozen Star Wars action figures in their retail packaging for £800 at an online auction, sold on for £3,000;

– Nearly 100 boomboxes in recent years – total cost around £500. Sold on for roughly £5,000.

– The AA01 000020 polymer £5 note featuring Winston Churchill. Bought at Bank of England charity auction for £1,200. Sold on for £4,000.

– A carousel from Santa Barbara Zoo. Bought for $500. Sold for $7,000.

Cash in on recycling

Recycling won’t make you rich, but it will mean small gains over time. You can sell old mobiles to shops like CeX or on Ebay. 

Or try a recycling website such as Envirofone, which will pay for damaged handsets and has free postage.

Discover the scrap value of your broken PC at a local specialist.

See empty aluminium cans on the floor as money shining back at you. There are more than 500 cash-for-cans locations across Britain.

Ten cans a day equals 70 a week, or 3,000 cans a year. Crush and store them. That’ll be around 50kg of aluminium to sell — putting around £25 in your pocket, while helping the planet and tidying your local area.

There are dozens of other ways to earn a crust from home. Consider renting out an unused parking space on websites such as Just Park.

Tap in your postcode for an estimate — if you live by a railway station or sports stadium you could easily earn hundreds of pounds a month.

Find ‘rare’ circulating coins — a Kew Gardens 50p is worth £100. Raid those piggy banks and check for coins worth more than face value. That 2009 coin was minted just 210,000 times and prices for them online have rocketed.

Contacts, the key to success

Now you have your pot of cash, the next thing to do is learn how to use it to buy items you can then sell on to make more money.

Our three keys to success are haggling, building contacts and starting with a genre you have a genuine interest in.

When it comes to haggling, it is as simple as: if you don’t ask, you won’t get. The worst they can say is no.

Global marketplace: Listing items on Ebay is free but the website takes a 10 per cent cut of the final selling price and you'll need to factor in postage and packaging costs

Global marketplace: Listing items on Ebay is free but the website takes a 10 per cent cut of the final selling price and you’ll need to factor in postage and packaging costs

Building contacts is essential so you are able to sell items you pick up swiftly. These experts can also help fix up cheap faulty goods for bigger gains.

Finding niche items is vital. Jesse likes to snap up boomboxes as one of his niches and knows the good from the bad.

These cumbersome throwbacks typically have a cassette deck, radio and handle. They are often sold on the cheap at events such as boot sales by people who don’t realise the true value, given the recent 1990s retro revival.

And always work out your hourly wage when considering your projects.

Jesse once bought a pallet of rejected world coins for £3,200 that he sold on for a £4,000 profit. But the time it took to clean all the coins and sell them means he wouldn’t do it again, as it lowered his hourly wage.

Where to pick up a bargain

From car boots and antiques centres to online auctions and charity shops, there are dozens of places you can pick up a bargain to sell on for profit.

Most of these events were paused in the pandemic, but now they are back there will be a glut of buying and selling opportunities.

At the car boot, there are two options: to be a sloth or locust.

Being a sloth means turning up close to the end, looking to drive hard bargains with weary sellers who will do anything not to lug items back home.

The locust route will see you turn up early and hunt out those early buys before other buyers get a look in.

Money spinners: Rare vinyl records can fetch high prices sold on online marketplaces such as eBay or Discogs

Money spinners: Rare vinyl records can fetch high prices sold on online marketplaces such as eBay or Discogs

You need to find two types of buy: your bread and butter items, which for Jesse is scanning books, CDs, DVDs and video games with the smartphone barcode apps explained earlier. 

Sometimes he’ll just haggle and buy the whole box for next to nothing. He also hunts out cheap Converse shoes and U.S.-made tools. His niche items include boomboxes and vintage cameras.

Charity shops are also full to the rafters with a backlog of stock after clearouts during lockdown. The more affluent the area, usually the better quality of item. It’s worth visiting half a dozen in one go.

Find out how often new stock comes in and build contacts with staff, who may allow you to come and sift through items before they go out on the shop floor.

Don’t think anything of using barcode apps to scan shelves of books and DVDs to find bargains. Academic books and films marked ‘special edition’ can be worth more as they are rarer.

Another trick Jesse uses is to focus on one type of item. For him, that’s winter jackets. He snaps them up out of season to resell on clothing apps come autumn.

The charity shop wants rid of them in the summer months as they take up valuable space. Storing a dozen good winter jackets, ready to unleash, can boost profits.

Another tip, once overseas travel has opened again, is heading to the U.S. with an empty suitcase with the aim of covering your flights.

While you’re there, fill it up with items — clothes especially — that are likely to be unique in Britain and you can sell on.

For example, pick up 30 T-shirts for a dollar apiece at a flea market or thrift store: a mix of band, location and U.S. sports emblazoned on them, which are bang on trend.

If you then sell 25 of them for £8-£10 a pop and you manage to unearth five that you can list for a bit more, say £15, you’re looking at a £325 return, minus the small outlay and any extra costs for taking that second case.

Armed with all these top tips, it’s your turn to give the ‘Never Go Broke’ method a go.

Five tips to get going

1. Make it part of your day. Try to make £10 rather than watching another episode of your television show. If you are watching television, at least dual-screen and make money while you’re doing it.

2. Sell an item in your home and feel the buzz of the sale. Then think about doing it bigger and better – how that will feel?

3. You may realise pretty quickly that you’re good at this – the haggling, sniffing out niche items and starting your own little mini resale empire.

4. Don’t set unrealistic goals: treat it as a way to have fun. When someone asks about your hobby, won’t it be great when you say ‘Making money from nowhere?’

5. Taking the time to pocket extra cash is like going to the gym. You know you’ll feel better for doing it and you’ll be healthier and happier too.

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